News Column

The Shindig sold to Logan native

July 4, 2014

By Sarah Einselen News editor, Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Ind.

July 04--The Shindig live entertainment venue in downtown Logansport, formerly The State Theater, has been sold to Logansport native and historic preservation enthusiast Kevin Burkett.

Burkett, a Philadelphia resident since 1997, plans to move back to Logansport in August, when he'll take over from current owner Billy Alger. Until then, he's wrapping up loose ends at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he's deputy managing editor for presentation.

When he returns with his wife Della to Logansport and takes over The Shindig, the name of the venue will change back to the State Theater.

"Historic preservation has always been really a big deal for me. I think returning it to the State Theater and going back to its original roots is important," Burkett said Thursday.

He also plans to renovate the historic theater building and expand the events held there to include theatrical performances, receptions and presentation of classic or repertory films.

"It's just a fantastic old building," Burkett said. "...My dad took me to my first movie there, so I have a long history with the theater."

The State Theater, which first opened in 1940 and was owned by Bill Ritchie for about 40 years, was sold in 2012 to Billy Alger, owner of Alger Motorsports and the man responsible for restoring and reopening Ritz Cinema in Rensselaer in 2007.

He'd intended something similar for The State until plans were announced for the construction of a new multiplex theater, Mary Max Cinema Logansport 5, on the city's east side. At that point, Alger switched gears -- renovating the State Theater, equipping it for live entertainment and renaming it The Shindig.

It opened as The Shindig last summer and has since housed live comedy and musical acts on weekends. Burkett said he plans likewise to make the once-and-again State Theater a home for live entertainment, especially local musical acts and stage productions.

Burkett pointed to Civic Players of Logansport, an organization he was heavily involved in before his move to Philadelphia, as one possible group to take the stage.

"Civic Players has put on a few dinner theaters in the past. ... I think the State could be a really ideal venue for that kind of performance," Burkett said.

He intends to carry out some renovations throughout August -- basic upgrades, changing the name and setting up his offices -- before a planned September re-opening.

He hopes eventually to get the State Theater equipped to handle catered events, too, like wedding receptions.

Burkett, author of the 2011 book "...But Not Forgotten: A historical analysis of Logansport, Indiana," praised the work Alger had already done when Alger changed the building's name and remodeled it to accommodate live entertainment.

"We've performed there a couple of times," Burkett said, alluding to the band Scarecrowe for which he plays guitar and sings. "I know Billy really well and have been incredibly impressed with everything he's done to switch it over."

"I think he has single-handedly saved the building from what easily could've been years of decline, sitting empty and not being used," Burkett added.

However, Alger said he couldn't keep running both The Shindig and his racing company. The NASCAR team is currently in the Camping World truck series, Alger said, and is "just really taking off right now."

"It was either hire [Burkett] as the manager or let him work to his full potential," Alger added, chuckling.

Alger approached Burkett six to eight weeks ago with the idea to purchase the building. Burkett had made an offhand comment expressing interest in buying it, he said, but never imagined it being sooner than perhaps a decade down the road.

When Alger called, though, Burkett's timeline shrunk quickly. Alger sought "somebody to take over the theater that shared his passion for it," Burkett said.

"The millisecond he mentioned it to me, I knew it was something I wanted to do," Burkett said. "I just had to figure out a way to do it."

Burkett founded State of the Arts Media as a side business to support him as he renovates the State Theater for its intended September reopening. The design consulation company will allow Burkett to still use the design skills he's acquired over 17 years with the Philadelphia Inquirer, he said.

Alger said he was "very confident" in Burkett's plans for the historic theater and encouraged The Shindig's attendees to support Burkett's aims.

"I want to thank all the people that came and saw our shows," Alger said. "I met a lot of wonderful people and I hope they continue supporting Kevin. He's a wonderful guy."


(c)2014 the Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, Ind.)

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Source: Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, IN)

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